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Voyager 2, the interstellar spacecraft’s navigator, sends a “heartbeat” to NASA

Nasa’s distant Voyager 2 probe has sent a “heartbeat” signal to Earth after mission control mistakenly cut contact, the US space agency said on Tuesday.
Launched in 1977 to explore the outer planets and serve as a beacon of humanity to the wider universe, it is currently more than 12.3 billion miles (19.9 billion kilometres) from our planet — well beyond the solar system.
A series of planned com¬mands sent to Voyager 2 on July 21 “inadvertently caused the antenna to point two degrees away from Earth,” Nasa’s Jet Pro-pulsion Laboratory (JPL) said in a recent update.
This left it unable to transmit data or receive commands to its mission control — a situation that was not expected to be resolved until it conducted an automated re-orientation manoeuvre on October 15.
But on Tuesday, Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd said the team enlisted the help of the Deep Space Network — an international array of giant radio antennas, plus a few that orbit Earth — in a last-ditch effort to re-establish contact sooner.
The probe was launched in 1977 to study planets beyond our solar system
To their surprise, “this was successful in that we see the ‘heartbeat’ signal from the spacecraft,” she said. “So we know the spacecraft is alive and operating. This buoyed our spirits.” The team is “now generating a new command to attempt to point the spacecraft antenna toward Earth,” Dodd added, although she said there is only a “low probability” it will work.
Still, given October 15 is a long way away, Nasa will keep trying to send up these commands.
Golden Record
While JPL built and operates Voyager spacecraft, the missions are now part of the Nasa Heliophysics System Observatory.
Voyager 2 left the protective magnetic bubble provided by the Sun, called the heliosphere, in December 2018, and is currently traveling through the space between the stars.
Before leaving our solar system, it explored Jupiter and Saturn, and became the first and so far only spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune.
Voyager 1 was mankind’s first spacecraft to enter the interstellar medium, in 2012, and is currently almost 15 billion miles from Earth.
Both Voyager spacecraft carry “Golden Records” — 12-inch, gold-plated copper disks intended to convey the story of our world to extra-terrestrials.
These include a map of our solar system, a piece of uranium that serves as a radioactive clock allowing recipients to date the spaceship’s launch, and symbolic instructions that convey how to play the record.